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Playground diary 2018

Dufferin Grove playground
May 27, 2018

Email to the Ward 18 Recreation supervisor, Keith Storey:

Today your staff came near to getting into a very unpleasant situation with the public, apparently because of your direction. At 4.30, they told me that they had been directed to shut down the sandpit water because staff were leaving at 5 p.m.

On a hot Sunday when there are close to 200 people in the playground area, if your staff come down and turn off the only water, they will likely get considerable hostility from parents and kids. When staff told me of their intentions, I said it was a very bad idea. But it was obvious that they felt they had no choice.

One of the parents who heard of the plan called 311 about it, but they were told that 311 has no weekend recreation supervisor listed in their files so there was no one the complaint could be directed to. Really?

June 7, 2018

Lots of new pieces of wood boards (mostly two-by-fours) have appeared -- much building going on, very nice.

June 9, 2018

At 1.20 pm the tap was on but there were hardly any shovels out, kids we digging with sticks. There were for rec staff at the snack bar, and when I asked them, they said the shovels had been put out -- and that maybe there weren't many left because they had been stolen. But one staff said she'd check to make sure -- and when she unlocked the shovel bin, it was full of shovels, none had been put out.

June 10, 2018

Email to Ward 18 Parks supervisor Lennox Morgan:

I understand some people have requested a better in-ground water turnoff at the Dufferin Grove sandpit. Keith says there's a plan to install an automatic two-hour turnoff on the main tap. Sounds like something that's going to malfunction as quickly as other "automatic" features have in the past.

Can a better in-ground access chamber be devised by tech services? One that parents with a padlock key can adjust since the rec staff are often not available to adjust the volume?

When there are lots of kids, the volume has to be adjusted to high because otherwise the kids can't spread out along the "river." Then it's not fun anymore.

June 10, 2018

At 6 pm most of the shovels had been locked away but the tap was on. At 8.30 pm the tap had been turned off but could still be opened. The dog fountain is back to running all the time.

June 12, 2018

At 6.30 pm on a sunny hot day, the water was still going and the shovels were still out. A staff person was walking around with a clipboard, said the play stuff would stay out until 8 pm. Great. When asked if she might start the sprinkler going on the parched garden, she smiled but didn't turn it on, just coiled up the hose.

June 14, 2018

The park was full of kids/parents/grandparents on this market day. The sandpit water was on only a trickle. But staff couldn't find the facility keys to turn it on more. Eventually the keys were tracked down but the lock is bad and it took another 10 minutes to get it open.

A Piper bench was relocated by staff with my help, put down by the playground, at my request. (Third request). Other staff were seen going around with clipboards.

June 16, 2018

The sandpit tap was on and there were a fair number of kids playing, but the water stream was only strong enough to send it halfway down the "river bed." I asked the in-charge staff to turn the water on stronger just while there were this many kids. She said she couldn't because the water would pool at the sewer grate and the neighbours would complain. She also said she had determined that the kids were happy with their river as it was.

I repeated my story about why it's important to have the water going all the way along the riverbed during times on hot days and holidays when there are a lot of children playing there. That way the kids can be spread out more, they have more room to play and are not as likely to get into arguments. The in-charge staff said that I was arguing with her and that she did not feel it was my place to do that, since she works at the park and I don't.

June 17, 2018

exposed concrete footing

At 10.15 a staff person was hooking up an extra hose and sprinkler to the outlets in the green box. The forecast is for hot weather and staff had determined that although they could not turn on the wading pool sprinklers, the use of a garden sprinkler would help the kids stay cool.

The staff person said that the water from the main sandpit tap could not be turned on stronger because the community recreation programmer says it hits the exposed concrete footing with too much force and splashes the kids.

He's right that there's a problem with the exposed footing -- and there are other reasons besides splashing why it's not a good set-up. A playground with this much use needs new sand more often, including overtop of the concrete water-tap footing, but none has been added since last year.

June 18, 2018

The second day of a heat alert, but worse than the first day. At 10.30 a.m., the sandpit water was on and there were already about twenty adults and kids there. Two caregivers told me that no staff had been down yet, but they had managed to get into the locked in-ground water outlet with a stick and turn the water on. They also said that on Saturday, when staff put the garden sprinkler out onto the splash pad, so many kids fell because of the slippery surfacing, that the parents moved the sprinkler off to the side.

Shortly after 10.30 a staff person went to check on the sandpit for the first time. Two other staff had been at the park since 8, but they were on the computer looking at muffin recipes -- turning the water on was not their job.

June 25, 2018, email to Jaydee Cornwall, CRC

12.15: trickle from water tap, unhappy parent

12.25 kids all bunched up near the tap

At 12.15 today there was a trickle of water at the sand pit and around 40 kids from school classes, all bunched up as you see below. The staff did not realize that school classes had come and were in the rink house, but they kindly agreed to come and look. When they turned the in-ground water on more -- and even more, at my urging -- the scene changed.

Points to remember: 1. In June, the park gets many school classes coming.
2. Being stingy with water bunches up the kids and makes fights.
3. The staff said they could come and check every hour. That;s better than what's currently happening but it would be good to focus far more on the main event -- which on most warm days is the playground -- rather than the interior of the building, or the muffin-making, or even the pizza oven
4. Staff that come to check on the sand pit need to look at the kids, not the water outlet handle. And every 10 minutes is better than every hour.
5. When there are this may kids, the water needs to run right to the end. As you see from the "after" picture,that solves the problem of safer play distribution.

Please let me know that you got this email. If you would like to learn more about how this play are runs well, I'm happy to meet with you -- soon would be best.

​12.40 lots of water running along the sandpit, kids spread out, fun again
Jan.25, 2018, email response from Jaydee Cornwall

I understand your points regarding water pressure in the adventure playground, and the ability to service large groups at the same time. I have noticed that low water pressure does create line ups, however at the same time, I have noticed first hand that that same stronger water pressure can be difficult for younger children to manage without getting splashed on severely.

After speaking to some community members and my staff team regarding this point, during my most recent visit to the park, I placed a metal rod inside the water box that serves as a marker for how far to turn the water pressure lever. This allows a medium between water trickling to the end/ceasing line ups for water, without splashing the young adventurers that visit the park. If required/requested, our staff can turn the lever to accommodate for extremely large groups.

I'm hoping that this solution should be able to assist all patrons, visitors, and adventurers moving forward.

June 28, 2018

Two days ago a woman reported that someone had set up a bed inside the cob enclosure. Today the setup was still there. One of the staff had called the CRP to let her know I asked if two staff could just take the benches out, but another staff said the grocery shipment had to be put away first. However, there were three school classes in the playground. Then the CRP came over to figure it out, and by the afternoon, the benches were gone.

caution tape, partly torn down

two piper benches and mattress -- homeless or love?
Jun 29, 2018 email to PFR general manager and West Toronto York district manager, cc to others

Subject line: Wading pool mess-up, reason #29 for having a conservancy talk

to Howie.Dayton,, cc to,,

Good afternoon Mr.Dayton and Ms.MacDonald,

At 11.45 today the Dufferin Grove wading pool staff -- on site since 8.30 a.m. -- still had no keys, no phone, and their supervisor was unreachable. There were about 150+ kids and caregivers at the park. The staff were about to try calling 311.

water flow stops at the orange hat

Meantime, at the adjacent adventure/ playground sandpit, the water pressure was turned on so low that the water only flowed about 3 meters along the watercourse, with about 40 kids trying to play. The temperature is 30.

At least there's shade, but there are also quite a few annoyed parents and grandparents. They would be even more annoyed if a rec staff who happened to pass by the playground had not let the WP staff into their lockbox, where they found the tool that lets them turn on the side sprinklers. So the sprinklers were on. The tool to let them fill the pool was not inside the lockbox, though.

This and other reasons will be part of a little list in my July Dufferin Grove newsletter. I will also let people know that I have asked for a conversation with either/both of you about the park issues that make a conservancy a sensible idea. Many such conversations have already begun locally. The newsletter link (still on June) is here.

Please let me know if/when I can come and see either/both of you to feel you out about this idea.

11.45 a.m., June 29, 2018: 30 celsius -- but staff had no keys, no phone, no tool to fill the wading pool

Thank you for your email, I am following up with regard to the issues you raised at Dufferin Grove.

Response from the Recreation director, July 3, 2018

"Friday, June 29 was the opening day for wading pools, with a focus on set-up and staff site orientation. Staff at Dufferin Grove were waiting for keys and other supplies while our coordinator was dealing with an issue at another location. In addition, we faced a mechanical issue with the fill valve. These issues were resolved by noon and the wading pool was opened immediately.

With regard to the adventure playground, the plan as of July 3 with the start of summer programming, is to have the playground monitored every hour by recreation staff. The water pressure will be adjusted according to weather and volume/usage. One of the other considerations with regard to water pressure of the activity playground is concerns raised regarding flooding at the south end of the park near the alley.

I would suggest that you connect with Matthew Cutler, Office of the General Manager, with regard to your conservancy idea."


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